A Bordewich on the border: Well-traveled journalist has Carson ties

Fergus Bordewich is passing through town this week on the way to maybe Finland or Montenegro.

Bordewich has the kind of career where he doesn't necessarily know which exotic corner of the world he will visit next. His two most recent trips were to Estonia and the Czech Republic as a contributing editor writing international articles for Reader's Digest.

This week he's visiting his cousin, artist Nancy Bordewich Bowers, in Carson City, which has exotic touches of its own in Fergus Bordewich's observations.

He finds the mountain-forest-desert contrasts here striking.

"It's totally different in just a few miles," Bordewich said. "I like crossing great topographic boundaries, like the Khyber Pass."

He also smiled at the taste of the Wild West he experienced this week as three police cars passed him on Carson Street and ended up pulling guns on some motorist.

"The West lives!" Bordewich said in recounting the episode. "Nancy must have set this up for us to show the old West life."

Fergus Bordewich is a lifelong New Yorker currently living in a town of 200 in the Hudson Valley, but Bordewich Bowers and her legendary teacher sister Grace are his "remote" cousins. The sisters' grandfather is Fergus' great-grandfather.

Between trips to far-flung regions (he's visited 67 countries), Bordewich set aside a couple weeks for a West Coast swing. His wife Jean was a delegate at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.

"It was a great opportunity to come up here," he said. "I wanted my daughter (10-year-old Chloe) to visit Nancy."

Fergus Bordewich, 52, this time couldn't visit his other cousin because Grace Bordewich, after whom a Carson City school is named, died in March 1999. She taught English at Carson High School from 1933 to 1965.

"I still think of Grace being alive because she was such a vivid presence," he said. "She was intellectually so curious. She was open to anything fresh and provocative. We had very rich conversations about the Indians of the region."

Native Americans have played a huge role in the life and career of Fergus Bordewich.

"My mother took me out of school to visit Indian reservations," he said. "It was a major influence in becoming a journalist and doing the traveling I do. I saw in childhood that middle class America is not all there was."

He tapped into the Bordewich sisters' knowledge about Northern Nevada tribes when writing the Pyramid Lake segment in his book, "Killing the White Man's Indian."

Bordewich primarily is an author of books, but since 1984 he has had a flexible enough schedule with Reader's Digest to be able to focus on books while at the same time earn a solid income. His articles appear in the American and, more often, foreign editions of Reader's Digest.

Officially, Bordewich is a contributing editor, but his business card gives a better hint to this duties - roving editor.

The Reader's Digest gig came up as he spent a year in China helping the Chinese news agency. He was living in Greece at the time and the Digest's European editor asked him to write an article.

"They kept making me offers I would have been foolish to refuse," he said. "Writing for Reader's Digest gave me time to write the books I do."

A few months ago he visited Estonia for an article yet to appear.

"Absolutely the most successful economy in the post-Soviet Union," he said.

Last month, Bordewich was in the Sudetenland section of the Czech Republic, which last got headlines when Hitler started his pre-war land grabbing. World War II is not that distant a memory there, he observed.

"It's an area that never recovered from the war," he said.

Bordewich wrote about Macedonia before NATO took an interest in Yugoslavia, but he said the article never appeared in the American Reader's Digest. Once again, Bordewich foresees problems in the former Yugoslavia.

"Montenegro is the next candidate for war," Bordewich said. "I want to go. My bags are packed."


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